Principal

Chad Ratliff, MBA, M.Ed., has been principal of Community Lab School in Albemarle County Public Schools since 2017, moving into this position after serving as the district’s Director of Innovation and Instruction. He is also a Lecturer at the University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development where he teaches courses on educational innovation. Chad co-authored Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools and penned the foreward, “On Liberating Teachers” in Teacher Burnout Turnaround: Strategies for Empowered Educators by Tish Jennings. He was named one of the “20 to Watch” educational leaders in the country by the National School Boards Association.

Community Lab School is a 6-12 district-backed charter school that approaches instruction through interdisciplinary, project-based, and experiential learning for content mastery in lieu of traditional instructional methods and letter grades. As a lab school, it also exists to design and pilot nontraditional approaches to learning that align to ACPS mission, vision, and goals with intent to inform practices more broadly. Research partners in his work at the school and district levels have included UVA, MIT, Princeton, Indiana University, and Smithsonian. Chad was Project Director of the $3,500,000, 3-year, multi-organizational U.S. DOE Investing in Innovation (i3) grant, Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Design as Drivers of Cross-Curricular Change. 

Chad was invited to participate in several education innovation-focused White House events during the Obama administration and has been called to testify before the Virginia General Assembly. The Singapore Ministry of Education invited him to speak there in 2020 and he has appeared before national organizations such as the American Association of School Superintendents, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the National School Boards Association, U.S.DOE , and the National Science Foundation. Chad was the opening keynote speaker at James Madison University’s Teaching and Learning with Technology Conference and the National Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education annual conference. His work has been highlighted in several books, including So Each May Soar: The Principles and Practices of Learner-Centered Classrooms by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Bringing Innovation to School: Empowering Students to Thrive in a Changing World by Suzie Boss. He was named one the “Top Leaders Under 40” by C-Ville Weekly and “Top 20 Under 40” by the Roanoke Times Blue Ridge Business Journal

Chad was appointed by the Governor of Virginia to the first-ever State Council for Youth Entrepreneurship and was a Virginia Board of Education appointee to the State Advisory Committee for Career and Technical Education. Chad has served on several nonprofit boards, including Board Chair for the Virginia Career Education Foundation, Vice Chair of the Virginia Technology and Engineering Education Association, and Board Member for the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council (CBIC) and the Edgar and Eleanor Shannon Foundation. He is Founder and President of the Spencer L. Chang Memorial Scholarship Foundation and was the Founding Board Chair of ReinventEd Lab.

In addition to his appointment at the University of Virginia, Chad has taught coursework in entrepreneurship at Piedmont Virginia Community College and organized several Startup Weekend events in Charlottesville. As a high school teacher and coach for Martinsville City Public Schools, he was honored with the Most Influential Educator award three times and received Wrestling Coach of the Year honors seven times. He also received the Distinguished Alumni honor from Patrick & Henry Community College, which is among his most cherished. 

Chad was born and raised in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and attended public schools. A first generation college graduate, he holds an an MBA from Virginia Tech, an M.Ed. from the University of Virginia, a B.S. from Old Dominion University, and an A.A.S from Patrick & Henry Community College. He is also an alumnus of UVA Darden School of Business’ Executive Educators Leadership Institute and the Center for Nonprofit Excellence’s Board Development Academy. He is currently a part-time doctoral student at UVA focusing on educational innovation.